Etheridge on target for Azkals return
Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge is expected to make his return to the Philippine Azkals for the joint Fifa World Cup and AFC Asian Cup Qualifying clash with powerhouse China on Oct. 15 at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
Having recovered from a hamstring injury, the Cardiff City stopper will be back to man the posts for a Philippine side that currently sits third at the table after splitting its first two matches last month.
Aside from Etheridge, Azkals manager Dan Palami said 21-year-old defender Elias Mordal has also been given clearance to play for the team. Palami said they have also started processing the clearance of Michael Kempter to be eligible for the next window in November when the Azkals will have tricky away tests against Syria and the Maldives.
Adopted by Norwegian parents, Mordal, who already joined the Azkals’ camp in China in June, traces his roots to Cebu. His case follows a similar path of former Azkals defender Simone Rota, who was also adopted by Italian parents, but played for the Philippines until 2018.
“He (Mordal) definitely gives us added options in defense,” Palami said of Mordal, who plays for Norwegian side Brattvag.
Meanwhile, China coach Marcello Lippi is bringing in his top guns for the duel against the Azkals, whom they have already defeated three times in the last three years. China will also face Guam in Guangzhou on Oct. 10, before flying to Bacolod.
Naturalized striker Elkeson, the first player without Chinese ancestry to suit up for the Asian heavyweight, has been named by Lippi to his squad that will be led by Espanyol winger Wu Lei.
Now named Ai Kesen, Elkesen, who qualified for naturalization by residency, scored twice in his debut in the 5-0 win over the Maldives last month in Male.
Wu, who scored twice against the Azkals in the Asian Cup, links up with his national team on the back of a packed schedule that includes club matches against CSKA Moscow in Europa League on Oct. 4 and Real Mallorca in La Liga on Oct. 6.
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